The Mitchell City Council last night turned down an ordinance that would have allowed Cassandra Bundy to keep her six pet miniature pigs, because for Pete’s sake, even if you’re making bacon for the whole block, we don’t want pigs getting lose and eating the Corn Palace!
Rural residents are told that CAFOs are the future of farming. If they oppose CAFOs they are not only threatening the economic future of American farmers but are destroying the economic foundation for rural communities. In truth, CAFOs are the end of real farming in America. They are factories, not farms. They drive real farmers out of business, not because they are more economically efficient but because they have more economic and political power. They are able to manipulate market prices and garner government subsidies to mask their actual lack of ability to compete with independent family farms. There is no future for farmers in an industry dominated by CAFOs [Professor John Ikerd, “The Hidden Costs of Factory Farming,” October 2011].
An eager reader sends an update from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources listing seven pending Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) applications that are open for public comment:
Lincoln County voters consider wind turbines almost as offensive as 7200 head of dairy cattle. While DPD 2 must be 0.675 mile back from residential buildings, Lincoln County voters just deemed that wind turbines must be 0.5 mile away from any habitable structures.
These airguns use compressed air to generate intense pulses of sound 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine. Their loud blasts are used on a recurring basis, going off every ten seconds, for 24 hours a day, often for weeks on end. They are so loud that they penetrate through the ocean and miles into the seafloor, then bounce back, bringing information to the surface about the location of buried oil and gas deposits.
Airgun blasts harm whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and fish. The types of impacts marine mammals may endure include temporary and permanent hearing loss, abandonment of habitat, disruption of mating and feeding, beach strandings, and even death. Seismic airguns could devastate marine life, harming fisheries and coastal economies along the Atlantic coast [Greenpeace, “Seismic and Sonar Testing,” retrieved 2017.05.15].
Some landowners in Fall River County, a fair distance from any sensitive whales and sea turtles, are hiring a private company to use seismic testing to look for oil and gas. John D. Taylor describes the process:
Seismic testing involves a large metal plate pushed down on top of the earth, through which are sent high-frequency vibrations, called seismic waves. The waves are created by either a dynamite blast or a specialized air gun. The waves bounce back (reflect or refract) in the rock strata, and are recorded by receivers known as geophones. Oil and gas geologists can “read” the seismographs generated by the testing unit to determine if there are pockets of oil or natural gas below. Think of it as something like using a fish finder [John D. Taylor, “Seismic Crews Want to Test up to 46,000 Acres Northwest of Provo for Oil and Gas,” Hot Springs Star, 2017.05.09].
U.S. Forest Service Hot Springs staffer Mike McNeil gave the Fall River County Commission a map showing the proposed seismic testing area around Provo, about eight miles south of Edgemont. The map, included in the commission’s May 2 agenda packet, bears the logo of Paragon Geophysical Services, Inc., a Wichita-based seismic testing company:
No whales on that map—what could possibly go wrong with pounding the ground with dynamite and air guns?
Did you notice “Black Hills Army Depot” written on that map? What’s out there?
The trenches were used to bury weapons, including chemical agents in containers, bombs and rockets, around BHAD, [Edgemont rancher Susan] Henderson said. This included M55 rockets.
A 1990s Congressional study showed that thousands of these rockets were filled with chemical agents. Today, some 50 -75 years after they were buried, a Sandia Labs study showed these rockets are destabilizing and could “auto ignite.” Also, when the temperature of the rocket rises above 55 degrees it can ignite. There have been multiple “blow-ups” of these rockets in other areas where the rockets were stored, she told the commissioners, worrying that seismic testing could set off a chain reaction of rockets in trenches.
Chemical warfare gas-filled rockets and bombs were also buried in bunkers, she said.
“There were hundreds of thousands of tons of chemical warfare agents stored or buried underground, 368,000 tons of Sarin alone” she said, “along with GB, VX, mustard gas, terrible Nazi stuff and secret stuff that no one knows about” [Taylor, 2017.05.09].
Terrible Nazi stuff? Among the numerous nefarious munitions listed in this BHAD inventory, one of the first disposed packages consisted of “Captured German Chemicals.”
Now I don’t think seismic testing is going to trigger Hydra’s Obelisk, but I can understand area ranchers’ concern that thumping the ground with dynamite could disturb some unexploded ordnance.
In 2016, Fall River County produced 17,928 barrels of oil, compared to 343 barrels in Custer County and 1,388,399 barrels in Harding County. DENR shows no marketed gas produced in Fall River County in 2016.
I don’t know of any wildcatters getting blown up in Fall River County yet, but it doesn’t hurt to be extra careful setting off dynamite and air guns near the old munitions dump. If seismic testing can upset whales, it can probably upset old, deteriorating, unexploded chemical weapons.
Is Donald Trump already heading toward lame-duck status?
Last November, President Barack Obama approved a rule limiting venting and flaring of natural gas from oil and gas wells on federal lands. The Obama Administration said the rule could save 41 billion cubic feet of natural gas from sheer waste each year and would reduce emissions of particularly potent greenhouse gas methane.
In a surprising win for environmentalists and Democrats and a blow to the fossil-fuel industry, the Senate on Wednesday failed in a bid to reverse an Obama-era regulation restricting harmful methane emissions that escape from oil and gas wells on federal land.
The vote was 51-49 in the Republican-led Senate with three GOP lawmakers — Maine’s Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona — joining forces with the Democrats to block efforts to overturn the rule [Matthew Daly, “Senate Blocks Move to Repeal Obama-Era Rule on Methane Emissions,” AP via PBS, 2017.05.10].
“This is a huge win for our health, our clean air, and our climate, and shows that President Trump’s plans to unravel hard-won environmental protections are not a foregone conclusion,” League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski said in a statement. “The battle for a clean, safe environment is far from over, and we will continue to stay vigilant, but today is a victory for all those who are raising their voice in resistance to the anti-environmental Trump administration, Republican leadership and Congress.”
…“Today is a victory for our public lands and for the health of families across America, and a defeat for Donald Trump, corporate polluters, and their friends on Capitol Hill,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement in response to the Senate vote. “People across the country will continue to resist and hold Congress and Trump accountable for any efforts to put the profits of polluters before the health of our families and our communities” [Mark Hand, “GOP Fails to Repeal Obama Methane Rule After John McCain, 2 Other Republicans Defect,” ThinkProgress, 2017.05.10].
The New York Times observes that the methane defeat signals a weakening of Trump’s hand on Capitol Hill:
Walsh said all the crude oil was recovered through absorbent materials and was contained in drums, then put back into the line. Dakota Access was responsible for cleaning up the spill, which it has done, he said.
The state will not fine or issue a citation against the company since the spill was reported and cleaned up within the required time frame, Walsh said.
The spilled crude oil, which is roughly equal to two barrels, is a very small amount compared to the 470,000 barrels of crude oil the pipeline is designed to carry in a day.
Two barrels isn’t much, but apparently this leak comes before Texas pipeliner Energy Transfer Partners fills the line starts pumping 470,000 barrels a day by June 1. Two barrels is also a trickle compared to the 4,800 barrels Energy Transfer Partners and its Dakota Access collaborators have spilled in the last couple years on other projects:
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade, which is fighting a sister pipeline to Dakota Access there, together with Disastermap.net, studied 2015 and 2016 data from the National Response Center, the federal agency that tracks the discharge of oil, chemicals, and other pollutants into the environment.
Energy Transfer and Sunoco were involved in 69 incidents — including 35 pipeline accidents — over the two-year period, the analysis found. The accidents caused eight injuries and $300,000 in damage, the report found.
“It is a pretty sobering experience to go through these spreadsheets,” said Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an environmental group. “To sift through all these pages really gives you an idea of the destruction” [Kevin Hardy, “Spills Plague Dakota Access Pipeline Builders, Environmental Groups Find,” Des Moines Register, 2017.02.06].
A December report from third-party inspector Keitu Engineers and Consultants Inc. identified 83 sites along the 380-mile (610-kilometer) pipeline corridor in North Dakota where trees might have been cleared in violation of the commission’s orders. The report by analyst Dean Mostad doesn’t estimate the number of trees involved.
Granado insisted to The Associated Press that ETP didn’t violate terms of its permit. Mike Futch, ETP’s pipeline project manager in North Dakota, said in a letter to commission attorney John Schuh in March that it’s possible the company cleared the disputed areas of trees before the company and commission agreed in June 2016 how large an area could be cleared. The company submitted its tree replacement plan in April.
That plan calls for two trees to be planted for every one that was removed — a total of about 94,000 trees — and for the company to inspect them annually for three years to monitor survival rates. The PSC must approve the plan.
A law firm representing numerous landowners on Monday filed a consultant’s report that contends ETP’s tree replacement plan includes far fewer species than were removed and that a “flawed approach” to soil work could result in trees “being planted and growing well for five or ten years, then dying” [Blake Nicholson, “Dakota Access Pipeline Developer Involved in Tree Dispute,” AP via Bismarck Tribune, 2017.05.05].
Condition #23: “If trees are to be removed that have commercial or other value to affected landowners, Dakota Access shall compensate the landowner for the fair market value of the trees to be cleared and/or allow the landowner the right to retain ownership of the felled trees.
Condition #37: “To facilitate periodic aerial patrol pipeline leak surveys during operation of the facilities: in wetland and riparian areas, a minimum corridor of 30 feet centered on the pipeline centerline (15 feet on either side), shall be maintained in an herbaceous state. Trees within the corridor greater than 15 feet in height may be selectively cut and removed from the permanent right-of-way.”
In this week’s episode, Green Aberdeen leader Enno Limvere tells us about Green Aberdeen’s local environmental efforts, the Earth Day Fair his group is hosting Saturday, and the theology behind his environmentalism. Plus, co-host Spencer Dobson and I talk about fallout from the Clare Lopez anti-Islam show, backlash against South Dakota’s discriminatory adoption law, Speaker Mark Mickelson and the cost of vo-tech education, and our Congressional delegation’s aversion to town halls.
At the end of 2015, Obama signed a measure called the FAST Act. Its title stands for “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation.” In addition to providing funds for infrastructure through 2020, the law established the steering council that reviews the permitting process to ensure projects were reviewed in a timely manner. The law also put limits on the environmental reviews which in theory should shorten a process that could cause permitting to drag on well beyond five years.
Some business groups say the Obama-era law is working and see little reason for an aggressive overhaul.
“You’ve got it down to a process that is two and a half years,” said Bill Kovacs, a senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
When the Chamber of Commerce says the regulatory process strikes the right balance between urgency and environmental review, there are probably already a few too many turtle homes getting bulldozed. But I’m willing to accede to the Chamber’s position here and say our infrastructure approval process is already sufficiently efficient, thanks to President Obama, and that we don’t need to put any more wetland drainage or other environmental damage on any faster track just to satisfy Trumpy slogans.
New U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday issued an order overturning an Obama administration ban on the controversial use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle used on federal lands and waters, in a nod to hunters and fishermen on his first day on the job.
…President Barack Obama’s Fish and Wildlife Service had issued the lead ban on Jan. 19, one day before the inauguration of President Donald Trump, to protect birds and fish from lead poisoning. The move was met with sharp criticism from the National Rifle Association (NRA), which called it Obama’s “final assault on gun owners’ and sportsmen’s rights” [Valerie Volcovici, “New Interior Head Lifts Lead Ammunition Ban in Nod to Hunters,” Reuters via KELO Radio, 2017.03.02].
Lead is a metal with no known biologically beneficial role, and its use in gasoline, paint, pesticides and solder in food cans has nearly been eliminated. Although lead shot was banned for waterfowl hunting in 1991, its use in ammunition for upland hunting, shooting sports and in fishing tackle remains widespread.
The most significant hazard to wildlife is through direct ingestion of spent lead shot and bullets, lost fishing sinkers, lead tackle and related fragments, or through consumption of wounded or dead prey containing lead shot, bullets or fragments.
Dr. Barnett Rattner, USGS contaminant expert comments, “The magnitude of poisoning in some species such as waterfowl, eagles, California condors, swans and loons, is daunting. For this reason, on July 1, 2008, the state of California put restrictions on the use of lead ammunition in parts of the range of the endangered California condor because the element poses such a threat to this endangered species” [USGS National Wildlife Health Center, “Concerns Rise over Known and Potential Impacts of Lead on Wildlife,” updated 2016.05.19, retrieved 2017.03.02].
USGS is under Secretary Zinke now. We’ll see if their online information on wildlife lead poisoning meets the Trump scrubber.
What looks like a much bigger kink in Azarga’s hose is the NRC’s ruling that Azarga must cap around 7,500 existing boreholes from previous uranium mining activity on the Dewey-Burdock site. Dakota Rural Action, which opposes Azarga’s mining plan, is pleased:
If these holes were not plugged and mining occurred, there would be a high risk of water contamination outside the mining area. According to research by an expert witness in the case, Dr. Hannan LaGarry, there are approximately 7,500 old boreholes on the proposed mine site. “I’m heartened to see the NRC is holding firm on the requirement that the company plug the 7,500 old boreholes,” said Gena Parkhurst of Dakota Rural Action, Black Hills Chapter. “Based on expert opinion, the proposed uranium mine in the area of the Fall River/Custer county border could seriously threaten our precious water supplies – there could be both contamination and depletion of our aquifers” [Dakota Rural Action, press release, 2016.12.23].